Teaching overview

Learning points

  • A tornado is a fast-spinning column of air that joins a storm cloud to the ground.
  • The majority of tornadoes occur in the US, particularly in the area known as Tornado Alley.
  • During a tornado, the safest places to shelter are basements or underground spaces.

Curriculum keywords

  • Weather
  • Geography
  • Earth

Multimedia toolbox

What is a tornado?

1. Tornadoes are fast-spinning columns of air joining storm clouds to the ground. Most last no more than a few minutes and cause only minor damage.

Supercell thunderstorm

2. A tornado forms due to the movement of hot and cold air in a storm cloud. The strongest tornadoes result from a special kind of storm, called a supercell thunderstorm.

Tornado Alley

3. Tornadoes can occur almost anywhere on Earth, but most of them happen in the US. One area there, known as Tornado Alley, sees tornadoes more often than anywhere else – its open, flat land allows the right combination of hot and cold air to meet and form tornadoes.

The Enhanced Fujita Scale

4. The strength of a tornado is measured using the Enhanced Fujita Scale. The scale starts at EF0 (minimal damage caused) and extends to EF5 (massive damage caused). Fewer than 1% of tornadoes in the US are ranked EF4 or higher.

Tornado safety

5. During a tornado, the safest places to shelter are basements or other underground spaces. It’s also good to stay away from windows, in case the tornado smashes them.

Spark a discussion

  • What is a tornado?
  • Why do you think it’s safest to shelter underground during a tornado?
  • How could people living in Tornado Alley prepare for possible tornadoes?

Explore our resources

Complete your lesson with teaching resources on weather from Tigtag.

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